Renault's immediate predicament: Back Ricciardo in 2020 or invest in the future with Ocon?
• Ricciardo switching to McLaren in 2021
• Ocon managed by Mercedes boss, Toto Wolff
• Renault betting on more equal playing field
The Renault Formula 1 team is in a tight spot, following a few significant changes to the team. Towards the closing stages of 2019, the team ousted Nico Hulkenberg and brought in Esteban Ocon. Then, in May, before the 2020 season got underway, Daniel Ricciardo announced that he is walking away from Renault at the end of this season to join McLaren in 2021.
This angered several of Renault's managers because they invested heavily in Ricciardo; seeing that they believed he is the chosen one to get them back to winning ways. But Ricciardo's decision came abruptly and has Renault on the back foot, because what is the team to do?
Do they continue to strive for the best with Ricciardo at the helm? Or do they put their support behind Ocon?
Renault's bigger concern
Logic will dictate that Renault should put their support behind Ocon. He is still young and will be with the team throughout 2021 and 2022. But what if the rug gets pulled from Renault's feet, again?
Ocon is managed by Toto Wolff, team boss for the Mercedes F1 team. Wolff brought Ocon back from the wilderness after the youngster was left without a drive for 2019. At Mercedes, Valtteri Bottas is still without a contract for 2021 and Merc is looking at several options for 2021. These options include retaining Bottas, or bringing in either of George Russell (Williams) or Sebastian Vettel (Ferrari).
Even if Ocon is contracted to Renault, weirder things have happened and could he also be in the running for the Mercedes seat should the team opt against retaining Bottas.
The regulations that were penned-in for 2021 have been moved to 2022 because of Covid-19. With the eye on the future, Renault would hope that Ocon sticks with the team for the next several years. Ocon, himself a talented and fast driver, has shown that he is dedicated to the team that signs him and will do his utmost to bring in the results.
Renault, on their turn, will have to ensure that the 2022 car is ready to take on the top teams. A factor that could play into Renault's hands is the budget caps scheduled for next year and 2022. With these caps, teams can only develop their cars up to a certain point, which should level the playing field.
This could be a major influence in Ocon's decision to renew his contract with Renault when the current one expires, but the team has to hit the ball out of the park when 2022 comes around.